Child Protection Policy: Responding to Complaints and Allegations

Classification

Policy Number: HR201618-1.1 | Version/Last Updated: 1.1 December 2016 | Audience: Public | Commencement: March 2014 (reviewed 2016)

Implementation Resources

Child Protection Procedures: Responding to Complaints and Allegations

Frequently Asked Questions – Responding to Complaints and Allegations

1.0 Rationale

Catholic systemic schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney are guided by a fundamental mission to provide a safe and supportive environment for each and every student entrusted to our care. These procedures reflect the legislative responsibilities of Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) and demonstrate our commitment to protect the safety and wellbeing of students, while supporting our employees and volunteers working with children and young people in our educational context.

This document sets out the policy and procedures to be followed in response to child protection complaints or allegations being made against employees (including volunteers) of Catholic systemic schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney. It provides consistent direction to the management of all child protection complaints and allegations made about employees and volunteers, having regard to the particular facts of each individual case.

This policy and procedures apply to:

  • all employees of SCS, whether or not they are employed in connection with work or activities that relate to children in a paid or volunteer capacity
  • any person engaged by SCS to provide services to children and young people
  • all Religious and clergy, whether employed, on stipend, or in a volunteer capacity, who are engaged in the workplace or engaged in activities that relate to children.
2.0 Guiding Principles

The following principles guide the way in which the investigative process is conducted:

2.1

All investigations of a complaint against an employee must be handled carefully and sensitively.

2.2

Care and support should be considered for all parties to a complaint, including children and young people, the staff member, the subject of the complaint, family members, and potentially any witnesses called upon to participate in an investigation process.

2.3

Employees who are subject of a complaint have the right to know what has been alleged in sufficient detail for them to respond, and the right to respond to any complaint or adverse comments made against them

2.4

Independence, objectivity and impartiality during the investigation process must be ensured.

2.5

Any conflicts of interests, be they actual, potential or perceived, must be identified and managed appropriately to reduce any adverse impacts on an investigation, or on the parties subject to the investigation of a complaint.

2.6

All parties to a complaint have a right to confidentiality.

2.7

Internal workplace investigations must incorporate ongoing risk assessment.

2.8

Contact with and reports to the NSW Police or other external authority/ies does not remove the requirement for an internal investigation at the appropriate time.

2.9

SCS follows the guidelines for complaint and investigation practices outlined in the NSW Ombudsman Guidelines as best practice. However, the process is constantly reviewed and may be refined at times, due to risk assessment or practical implications impacting upon the process.

3.0 Policy

Catholic systemic schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney, SCS offices and all SCS staff have a responsibility to:

3.1

Maintain the care and protection of children and young people as paramount.

3.2

Support the right of students, parents and employees to bring forward complaints or allegations and to be heard without fear of reprisal.

3.3

Ensure that all employees are aware of their obligations to report inappropriate conduct involving a child.

3.4

Ensure all employees are aware of the required standards of behaviour, the complaint policy and the procedures.

3.5

Provide support to employees in maintaining professional standards related to relationships with students.

3.6

Investigate all allegations of a child protection nature, specifically related to the actions of an employee or volunteer, and ensure that all appropriate action is taken in relation to findings.

3.7

Advise employees, under investigation for an allegation of a child protection, of the nature of the support available to them.

3.8

Ensure that a fair and transparent process for managing all complaints or allegations is in place, operating with procedural fairness in situations where a decision made could have a detrimental impact on the rights and interests of an individual.

3.9

Make a report to the NSW Police (or appropriate alternative if allegation arises in another State, Territory or jurisdiction), if an allegation is of a criminal nature.

3.10

Make a report to the Department of Family and Community Services (132 111) regarding allegations where a child or young person is at Risk of Significant Harm (ROSH).

3.11

Make a report to the Ombudsman regarding certain allegations or convictions of a child protection nature made against employees.

3.12

Make a report to the NSW Office of Children’s Guardian regarding the names of employees for whom it has completed relevant employment proceedings.

4.0 Procedures
4.1

Responsibilities of SCS:

  • respond to, make inquiries and/or investigate all allegations and complaints relating to conduct of employees in respect of children and young people
  • submit a monthly report to the Head of Agency, as nominated by the Ombudsman Act 1974 (NSW), of all matters falling within the jurisdiction of the NSW Ombudsman.
4.2

Responsibilities of the Director of Human Resources:

  • authorise any interim arrangements on an employee’s work status following a risk assessment
  • authorise action taken by employment services in instances of an adverse finding for an employee.
4.3

Responsibilities of the Child Protection Team under the direction of the Team Leader:

  • ensure a complaint/allegation is referred to the appropriate member of the Child Protection Team for response, inquiry and/or investigation
  • ensure the complaint/allegation is registered in the Child Protection Database and intake protocols, followed in line with attached procedures
  • identify whether the alleged conduct requires a report to external authorities, which may include NSW police, Community Services, NSW Ombudsman, or other agencies such as the Provincial Leader of a Religious Order if the complaint relates to a Religious
  • assessment and Investigation of a complaint or allegation in line with the attached procedures
  • undertake a risk assessment at the commencement of a matter, to inform SCS of actual or perceived risks which are present or likely to arise in a particular matter, and assist with the strategies or interim measures necessary to mitigate risk and protect the integrity of the investigation
  • maintain appropriate records of investigations and findings, ensuring storage of such records is kept securely and separately from personnel files.

5.0 Bases of Discretion

Nil

6.0 Explanatory Notes and Definitions
6.1

Child

A child is a person under the age of 18 years. With respect to matters notifiable to Community Services, a child is defined as a person under 16 years.

6.2

Young Person

Young Person: a person is aged 16 or 17 years.

6.3

Employee

An employee is defined as any person who is engaged by the Archdiocese of Sydney Catholic systemic schools, whether or not they are employed in connection with work or activities that relate to children in a paid or volunteer capacity; as well as any person engaged by SCS to provide services to children and young people. This includes: contracted staff, such as special transport drivers, cleaners and maintenance contractors; sub-contracted staff, such as canteen managers; trainees, such as those on student placement or work experience; clergy visiting schools; and volunteers, such as parent helpers. Any reference to employee in this policy encompasses all categories outlined above.

6.4

Civil Standard of Proof

The matter is considered sustained if the investigator is satisfied that the case has been proved on the balance of probabilities.

6.5

Final Report

For matters that require reporting to the NSW Ombudsman Office, the final report comprises a copy of the investigation file. The file is forwarded to the Ombudsman, who has oversight of the agency’s process. The Ombudsman will review the file and advise SCS whether or not it is satisfied with the process prior to closing the matter. SCS will inform the employee when the Ombudsman closes its file.

6.6

Findings

Findings are made on each complaint at the conclusion of the process. The NSW Ombudsman and Office of Children’s Guardian Guidelines provide headings for findings of investigations within its jurisdiction and SCS relies upon these (see relevant fact sheet for details). Matters not in that jurisdiction rely on commonly used industry-relevant terminology.

Findings of matters managed at school level are determined by the Principal in consultation with SCS staff. Findings of matters managed by SCS are determined by the relevant SCS staff in consultation with the Team Leader: Child Protection.

6.7

Head of Agency

The Archbishop of Sydney is deemed to be the Head of Agency, as per Part 3A of the Ombudsman Act 1974 (NSW), for Sydney systemic schools. The Head of Agency may delegate certain responsibilities for oversight to the Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools.

6.8

Complaint/Allegation

For the purposes of this document, a complaint or allegation is considered to be any issue raised regarding the conduct of an employee of SCS in relation to children or young people, where such conduct is considered to be of a nature which may constitute reportable conduct in accordance with the Ombudsman Act 1974 (NSW).

6.9

Reasonable Inquiries

  • child or young person subject of the complaint is interviewed and relevant parent consent obtained
  • employee given reasonable notice of complaint
  • other witnesses interviewed
  • relevant documents, e-communications or other items of evidence are obtained
  • full details of allegation put to the employee who is the subject of the complaint
  • the employee is given full details of the complaint in writing, with a support person present, and given an opportunity to respond (in writing and/or in person).
6.10

Reportable Allegation

A ‘reportable allegation’ means an allegation of reportable conduct against a person, or an allegation of misconduct that may involve reportable conduct as defined by the Ombudsman Act 1974 (NSW). A reportable allegation must be reported to the Ombudsman and may result in an employee’s name being forwarded to the NSW Office of Children’s Guardian following a relevant completed employment proceeding.

6.11

Reportable Conduct

In accordance with the Ombudsman Act 1974 (NSW), reportable conduct is defined as:

  • any sexual offence or sexual misconduct committed against, with, or in the presence of a child (including child pornography offences)
  • any assault, ill-treatment, or neglect of a child
  • any behaviour that causes psychological harm to a child
  • whether or not, in any case, with the consent of the child.
6.12

An exempt allegation

Reportable conduct does not extend to:

  • conduct that is reasonable for the purposes of the discipline, management or care of children, having regard to the age, maturity, health or other characteristics of the child, and to any relevant codes of conduct or professional standards (Code of Professional Conduct – internal)
  • the use of physical force that is trivial and negligible, but only if the matter is to be investigated and the result of the investigation recorded under workplace employment procedures
  • conduct of a class or kind exempted from being reportable conduct by the Ombudsman under 25C (4) of the Ombudsman Act 1974 (NSW). Examples of this include allegations of physical assault, insofar as they fit specific criteria for children in different age groups and there is no alleged harm or injury to the child.

Note: matters not requiring a report to the NSW Ombudsman must still be recorded, investigated and an appropriate finding made.

6.13

The Legislation

7.0 Supporting Documents
7.1

Related policies

7.2

Supporting documents

8.0 Appendices

Frequently Asked Questions – Responding to Complaints and Allegations

9.0 Classification
9.1

Policy Number:HR201618-1.1

9.2

Version: 1.1

Last modified: December 2016

This policy supersedes all previous policies relating to matters contained therein. In so much as any aspect of this policy may appear to be in conflict with another Archdiocesan system or school-based policy, then precedence is to be given to this policy.

9.3

Audience: Public

9.4

Review by: December 2018

9.5

Originally Approved by Leadership Team: April 2014

Review Approved by Leadership Team: 3 November 2016

9.6

Originally Endorsed by SACS Board: 3 April 2014

Review Endorsed by SACS Board: 30 November 2016

9.7

Originally Approved by Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools: 10 April 2014

Review Approved by Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools: TBA

9.8

Commencement Date: March 2014 (reviewed 2016)

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